By: Max Lorber, Arts and Culture Editor
WMPG has started 2020 with a new film series in the works and the necessary funding to move forward. The Onion Foundation awarded their Discovery Grant to WMPG, donating $2500 to fund the Jazz at the Movies (JAM) film series.
The first event will be held on April 16, with a screening of a documentary about the Jazz singer Anita O’Day, titled “The Life of a Jazz Singer,” at the Cove Street Gallery in Portland.
The second event will also be at the Cove Street Gallery on May 27, with a screening of a documentary about acclaimed New Orleans trumpet player Leroy Jones, titled “A Man and his Trumpet.”
Admission is free to the public.
“We hope the films will make the music more meaningful after knowing the story behind its creation,” said Ron Fluet, one of the WMPG Jazz DJ’s helping to coordinate the events.
The two films selected by the JAM committee at WMPG are the first of many, with more events in the pipeline as the committee works to get the proper screening licenses and to secure future locations. Along with Fluet, Dave Wade, Eydie May Pryzant, George Nixon, and John Mooney are also working on the JAM film series.
“Jazz at the Movies started when a few Jazz DJs were talking about their love of a few select Jazz films. From that discussion the idea of sharing Jazz movies with the Southern Maine community germinated,” Fluet said.
Jim Rand, the WMPG Station Manager, said the idea for a Jazz film series was pitched to him by the above mentioned DJs, and he approved the project. Rand and the newly formed committee wrote the grant application, which was submitted to the Onion Foundation in mid December 2019. The grant was awarded three weeks later on January 7, and will be used to pay for the venue costs, marketing and screening licenses. Rand said he then set up a standard accounting procedure for tracking the expenditure of the funds, and filed expense reports as the money was spent.
“Licensing a film is expensive and the grant was key to making JAM happen economically,” Fluent said.
Fluet also said that licensing films is not only expensive, but it can also be complicated and quite challenging. Finding the right distributor to grant a screening license can be “like going into the jungle.”
“But we go through the jungle because we have a great team of Jazz DJs and everyone contributed in a big way,” Fluet said. “We learned a great deal about getting through the hurdles and communicating with each other to keep the group engaged and moving forward.”
Fluet and Rand both described the Onion Foundation as a perfect fit for the JAM event, and that applying for a grant from this institution to help fund screenings of Jazz films was strategically sound.
“They want to encourage experimentation in the arts,” Rand said.
The Onion Foundation’s has two separate pursuits. The mission statement found on their website, onionfoundation.org, says their goals are “To encourage conservation and stewardship of the natural environment and to promote music and the arts in the state of Maine.”
The Onion Foundation awards grants which fund environmental stewardship and education initiatives, as well as projects supporting music and the arts. The Discovery Grant, which was awarded to WMPG, can be used to “try something new,” according to onionfoundation.org.
Dates for future JAM events will be announced soon.